Yes he should, although it may have seemed a tricky one to call.
The simple fact is that the UK’s economy was bound to suffer in the year of Covid-19.
Business – and school – closures were inevitable. Even though Johnson didn’t want to do it, eventually he had to.
And that’s part of the reason he should be blamed: he had to be dragged into every correct decision he made – and usually too late to prevent some harm from being done.
His lockdowns were only ever partial (so not really lockdowns at all), and he pulled out of them too early.
We recently learned that he ignored scientific advice to do so.
He diverted commercial contracts connected with tackling the virus away from experts in order to hand billions of pounds to friends of the Conservative Party who knew little or nothing about the work they were being asked to do.
Test and trace work, to quote a much-criticised example, suffered badly because he put an ex-jockey in charge, who didn’t realise that a virus can mutate – something that seven-year-old children read in school textbooks.
As a result of all this, the pandemic affected the UK far more than it might otherwise have, and the economic effect was worse, as we can see:
The UK economy shrank by a record 9.9% last year as coronavirus restrictions hit output, official figures show.
The contraction in 2020 “was more than twice as much as the previous largest annual fall on record”, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Muddying the issue is the fact that previous governments had dismantled the UK’s ability to cope with a pandemic infection over many years. But Boris Johnson was part of some of those governments, so he still can’t dodge some of the responsibility.
And, because it is a deadly infection, we don’t know how many people were likely to have been infected – or died – if Johnson had acted more responsibly… or indeed if he hadn’t bothered to do anything at all.
So we don’t know what would have happened in either a worst- or best-case scenario.
So we are left with the knowledge that the economy was going to suffer in 2020, no matter what.
But Johnson did not act fast enough to minimise the damage – and his choices were either wrong or, on the rare occasions they were right, delayed.
We don’t know how badly the economy would have been affected in different circumstances.
But it’s a fair bet that it would have fared better if Johnson’s choices had been wiser.
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